Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Does Lee Roy Selmon have champagne on ice?

The lamest tradition in the NFL has got to be when the 1972 Dolphins celebrate the last undefeated team losing their first game every year. They've had some scares: the 15-1 1985 Chicago Bears started off 12-0, the 14-2 1991 Washington Redskins started out 11-0, and the 14-2 1998 Denver Broncos started out 13-0. The current edition of the Patriots just reached 6-0, and face the winless Dolphins this week. Which begs the question - do the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a bottle of bubbly on ice, waiting for a team to go winless?

A mildly popular topic of discussion on football shows is whether it's tougher to go winless or undefeated. The answer is easy: it's much more likely to go undefeated. There are mechanisms in place for bad teams to get better, but there are also mechanisms in place for good teams to get better. What I'm getting at is it's very hard for bad teams to get worse. Teams that pick in the bottom if the first round can still find good players, but the massive media pressure focused on the NFL draft has made it much harder to whiff on high picks.

Take, for example, maybe the worst team of the last 30 years: the 1991 Indianapolis Colts. They went 1-15, winning one game by one point, and started off 0-9. With the top two picks in the 1992 draft they took Steve Emtman (retired at 27) and Quentin Coryatt (retired at 29), ahead of Sean Gilbert, Terrell Buckley, and Troy Vincent. I can't imagine a team getting away with getting two injury question marks at the top of the draft with the working knowledge of NFL draft prospects possessed by every season ticket holder.

So how ironic would it be if the same year the '72 Dolphins were wiped off the record book, the '07 Dolphins went winless and took the '76 Buccaneers off the hook? Last years Raiders were maybe the worst coached team ever, and still managed to win not only one but two games. The Dolphins have the reigning Defensive MVP and a top five back, and play in a division with two one win teams. But they're 0-6, still have two games against New England, a home game against Baltimore, and a road date with Pittsburgh. Their most likely wins would be either a home matchup with the Jets, or one of their two remaining games with the Bills. It probably won't happen, but it would be some crazy symmetry if it did.

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